The New Hunger
ISBN13 – 9781939126047
Not to sound like a hipster, but I dug zombies long before they were cool.
The first zombie flick I saw was Dawn of the Dead, the George Romero classic, followed by the sequel Day of the Dead, featuring the first real undead hero, Bub. Return of the Living Dead, featuring one of the most underrated soundtracks/scores in cinematic history, introduced dark comedy to the genre. Zombie movies continued along through the years and with movies such as Fido, Dead Girl, 28 Days/Weeks/Months Later, Land of the Dead, etc., zombies began getting some traction, leading up to The Walking Dead.
Now, everyone is a fan of staggering, shambling corpses and the men and women who run from them.
Unlike the villainous corpses from the aforementioned movies and books like Max Brooks’ World War Z and The Zombie Survival Guide, Isaac Marion walked down a heretofore untraveled road where the zombie was not only considered “good,” but was the story’s protagonist. His book, Warm Bodies, made its motion picture debut Feb. 1 and gives horror fans yet a new twist on the old tale of the zombie apocalypse.
With the release of the movie, Marion has unleashed a prequel, The New Hunger. Zombie yarns, or any yarn for that matter, is about the personalities of its characters. A dystopian zombie future is boring unless there are well-constructed heroes and villains. Zombies tend to just be the mindless eating machines that are technically neither good or bad. They’re like Jaws; a force of nature that does what it has to do to survive.
The New Hunger is refreshingly unique as we are introduced to a zombie with awareness and a sense of self, albeit a vague one. At least at first. In addition to our zombie friend, we’re also introduced to Nora and Addis, a 16-year-old girl and her six-year-old brother abandoned by their parents in the Pacific Northwest and Julie, the 12-year-old daughter of a US Army colonel in New York trying to find safety with her mother and father.
Instead of the caricatures that many authors throw into books like these, it is apparent Marion has put a lot of time and emotion into the development of his characters. They’re real. When Nora watches Addis play, knowing their food supply is gone and wondering how they’re going to live to see the end of the week, her world weariness is palpable. The light-hearted back-and-forth between Julie and her mother contrasting with the zombie-infested nightmare that surrounds her is a strong and mostly surreal example of the ability of the human spirit to cope with nearly anything.
Much like The Walking Dead, The New Hunger isn’t necessarily about zombies–it’s about strength and weakness. It’s about overcoming obstacles when no one expects it as a possibility. It just happens to have hordes of flesh-eating monsters from your worst nightmares as a background. Which is pretty sweet. Because like I said, I’ve loved zombies for a long time. And I love this novella.
As with most zombie-related media, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this for younger readers due to the graphic nature of the story–described in beautiful detail by Marion–and adult language. It’s another example of a Young Adult-style book that has grown-up appeal. For any fan of horror, zombies, or fantasy, The New Hunger should fill that cavernous void within them.